By Dave Russell
Sylva’s outdoor playground, Pinnacle Park, grew by 441 acres this year and work should begin in August to get it ready for people to play.
Town and county leaders voted in February to put money towards purchasing the Blackrock tract, which borders Pinnacle to the south and extends down the ridgeline towards U.S. 19, Wolfetown Road.
The property was purchased from America’s HomePlace, a custom home-building company headquartered in Gainesville, Georgia, for $2.1 million.
The Clean Water Management Trust Fund awarded in November a $1 million grant for the project. Local government contributed $500,000 ($250,000 from each the county and town). Additionally, the Conservation Fund has raised $584,000 in private donations.
Officials will work with Franklin-based nonprofit Mainspring Conservation Trust to establish an easement to protect the property in perpetuity.
The town’s 2019-2020 budget set aside $10,000 for work on trails and signs on the property, which could start in late summer, Sylva Manager Paige Dowling said.
“It’s being surveyed right now,” she said. “After the Conservation Fund and Mainspring submit the final closing documents to the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, it will probably be August before we start working on it.”
The town also included $10,000 for updates to trails in the Fisher Creek portion of Pinnacle Park. That part of the park was created in the Fisher Creek watershed, once Sylva’s water supply.
The public is welcome to check out the new addition now, taking Black Rock Road south from Old Soco Road to access it, Dowling said.
“When I was up there, I did not see any trails,” Dowling said. “But that doesn’t mean there are not small trails made by hunters or hikers. Trails will have to be developed over time. Our focus has been on acquisition.”
The town’s Department of Public Works will be responsible for work on signage, mandated by the conservation easement.
The agreement allows for “the most flexible use of the property,” including “non-commercial hunting, non-commercial fishing, hiking, walking, non-motorized biking, scientific study, animal/plant observation, nature and environmental education, historic tours, photography, and any other purposes consistent with these accepted uses.”
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ Tribal Council approved in February the purchase of 470.79 acres of land in the Western Plott Balsam mountains adjacent to the Blackrock parcel.
Known as the Shut-in Creek tract, it too was owned by America’s HomePlace before purchase by the Mainspring Conservation Trust, N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund, The Conservation Fund, EBCI, the town of Sylva and Jackson County.
The property will allow for the same uses as the Blackrock tract.